The environmental impact of plant-based foods

GHGE per Kg of food

Global adoption of nutritionally balanced plant-based diets is proposed to be an effective strategy for reducing GHG emissions worldwide. 

GHGE across the supply chain

The production of plant-based products is considered more efficient regardless of whether the comparison is made by weight of product, per serving, per calories or per protein content.

The environmental impact of plant-based foods: freshwater

There is substantial variability in the dietary environmental impact of those consuming plant-based diets:

  • Any environmental benefit would depend on the quantity and the specific foods consumed.
  • Overconsumption of calories, a high intake of fruits transported by plane, or the consumption of great quantities of fatty dairy products, like cheese or butter could jeopardize any potential benefit from the avoidance of meat.

The environmental impact of plant-based foods: land use

The environmental impact of high protein plant-based foods: The tofu example

  • Producing the same amount of protein from tofu (soybeans) in comparison to beef protein: 
    • requires 74 times less land and 8 times less water
    • the GHG emissions are 25 times lower
    • the eutrophication* potential is reduced by 39 times.

 

  • Even if compared to egg protein, tofu protein: 
    • requires almost 3 times less land and 6 times less water
    • the GHG emissions are only half of that from egg protein
    • the eutrophication* potential is 5 times lower.

*Eutrophication: a process driven by the enrichment of water by nutrients, especially compounds of nitrogen and/or phosphorus, leading to an increased growth, primary production and biomass of algae; changes in the balance of organisms; and water quality degradation.

The environmental impact of plant-based foods: Milks

The environmental impact of plant-based foods

CONCLUSION

From an environmental perspective, altogether, embracing a balanced plant-based diet, could be an effective strategy for reducing the food system’s environmental degradation and reducing the use of earth’s resources.